Eoin Morgan cannot say if Alex Hales would be welcomed back into England’s World Cup dressing room but is willing to give Jason Roy every chance to prove a replacement batsman will not be needed.
Captain Morgan has recovered well from the painful back spasm which saw him limp from the field during last week’s victory over the West Indies and plans to play against Afghanistan on Tuesday, but there was worse news over Roy.
An MRI scan revealed the Surrey opener had torn his left hamstring and would miss the game at Old Trafford as well as Friday’s Headingley date with Sri Lanka. England have not made the grade of the tear public and there are concerns his absence may be ongoing.
With James Vince lined up to deputise, England are keen to avoid rushing to conclusions on Roy’s prognosis, but the possibility of an injury call-up before the competition concludes has inevitably brought Hales’ name into the frame.
The experienced 30-year-old was inked into the squad until news broke that he was serving a 21-day ban for twice breaching the ECB’s recreational drugs policy, opening the door for Vince.
Morgan said last month there had been “a complete breakdown in trust” between Hales and his team-mates, with the implication being that bridging the gap would be a long-term process.
With question marks now surrounding Roy’s readiness for the rigours ahead, Morgan hinted that national selector Ed Smith could be the man to determine Hales’ fate.
“I think it would be a case of speaking to Ed because ultimately Ed gets the final call and say on who is involved in the 15,” he said.
“Then it’s addressing how that would look in a changing room set-up. I’ve not been part of any discussions simply because I’ve been firmly focused on managing the players and everything else that’s ongoing.
“When we selected the squad we did have conversations on underlying replacements for particular players. So they are always ongoing in the background and I’m not involved in a lot of them.”
Speaking to BBC Sport, Morgan went on to suggest that Hales, who has only played two competitive innings this season, might not be welcomed with open arms.
“If Ed Smith came to myself and (head coach) Trevor Bayliss and said he felt that Alex was the best option, we would have to assess how that would sit in the changing room and the stigma it would bring with Alex coming back in,” he said.
For now, though, it is Roy’s fitness that is concentrating England’s minds.
They will hope he is not missed in this week’s double-header against two nations who have failed to gather any traction in the competition so far, but his fearless hitting at the head of the innings could be a priceless commodity at the business end.
The group stage wraps up with games against Australia, India and New Zealand, all of whom are likely semi-final opponents should England reach the final four. With Roy in tow, any assignment looks more manageable.
“He’s in the best form of his life. So he’s very important,” said Morgan.
“I certainly believe Jason will play again in this tournament. At the moment he’s going to be assessed continuously over the course of the next week. He’s out of the next two games. So we’ll see how he pulls up after that.
“There’s a reason we’d keep him around. One, he’s a very key player, but two, there is a very optimistic chance of him playing.”
Morgan appeared happy with his own condition after returning to the indoor nets at Old Trafford for a light batting session on the eve of the game.
“It’s drastically improved,” he said of his back.
“I’ve had extra treatment and medication in the last two days which has helped me no end. If the game was today I think I could play. It all depends on how I pull up in the morning.”
Seamer Liam Plunkett was absent from nets due to illness and is likely to make way for spin bowling all-rounder Moeen Ali, with England anticipating a turning pitch.
Morgan also confirmed Vince would play and open the batting, with Joe Root returning to number three despite his unbeaten century while deputising for Roy last time out.
Morgan suggested Roy would be ready to reclaim his place before the end of the competition but was not committing himself to a specific timeline.
“I certainly believe Jason will play again in this tournament,” he said.